Dymaxion Quartet – Sympathetic Vibrations – self-released, 53:04 ****:
(Mike Shobe – trumpet; Mark Small – saxophone; Dan Fabricatore – bass; Gabriel D. Gloege – drums)
What do you get when you combine Asca S.R. Aull’s abstract urban photography with concepts based on visionary engineer, architect and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller? The answer is The Dymaxion Quartet’s debut, Sympathetic Vibrations.
The forward-thinking quartet includes drummer/composer Gabriel Gloege, tenor saxophonist Mark Small, trumpeter Mike Shobe and bassist Dan Fabricatore. The group’s name comes from three words that summarize Fuller’s theories: dynamic, maximum and tension, thus Dymaxion. Gloege and his bandmates develop Fuller’s perceptions in interesting ways, involving counterpoint, harmonic coloring and in textures brought out by the arrangements and the ensemble’s instrumentation.
Despite Fuller’s permeating presence, the nine-track, 53-minute record is more directly inspired by Aull’s gallery presentation, “Paradis Sur Terre (Heaven on Earth),” featuring photos from a trio of cities – Manhattan, Paris and Hong Kong. “I was taken aesthetically with his photos – their sense of composition, focus, simplicity and their sense of mystery,” Gloege explains, “Aull presents the viewer with enough of a scenario to orient you, but leaves a lot of details to be filled in. His photos look like what I want my music to sound like.”
The project is split into three triptychs, in essence a triptych of triptychs. The opening three numbers spotlight Aull’s impressionistic Hong Kong photographs. The post bopper “At One” – initiated by a photo of a soaring seagull’s shadow on water – has a reflective tone that shares a sentiment of uncertainty and restraint, with sax and trumpet spiraling high as the lone bird that flits over Victoria Harbor. “The Kiss” has a similarly meditative quality, where a romantic meeting in the midst a chaotic city shows the momentary affection that can occur between lovers: the feeling of closeness is accented by Small and Shobe’s interweaved horns. “Night Market,” on the other hand, mirrors the energy of a noisy street of sellers, peddlers and patrons.
The middle section fosters Parisian tableaux. “Summer’s End” begins with a nostalgic, low-key mannerism, changes to a mid-tempo, funky boogaloo highlighted by a soulful sax solo and finishes in an introspective vein. Gloege has a flair for dramatic moments and none more so than “The Boat,” a sad ambient cut where Fabricatore utilizes arco to underscore a still life portrait of a derelict boat sedentary in the Seine.
New York City has been a muse for scores of artists, so no surprise the final triptych has the Big Apple as a stimulus. The understated “Wollman’s Rink” – named after the famous Central Park public ice skating site – recalls The Modern Jazz Quartet due to a genteel counterpoint and a slight resemblance to “Skating in Central Park”: both pieces have likened motifs and subject matter. Orchestral harmonics provide “Midnight Mass” a softly-abstracted mode augmented by Gloege’s cool cymbals and toms and the dirge-tinted horns. The Dymaxion Quartet ends on an upbeat perspective with the modernistic “Fulton Fish Market,” which has the same amplified neo-bop boost given to “Night Market” but with contemporary twists.
Sympathetic Vibrations is an auspicious inauguration that has an inventive spirit and creative drive and proves The Dymaxion Quartet is full of potential possibilities. (Unfortunate they didn’t use either an Enhanced CD or a web site link to view the photographs that inspired the music…Ed.]
1. At One
2. The Kiss
3. Night Market
4. Spring Equinox
5. Summer’s End
6. The Boat
7. Wollman’s Rink
8. Midnight Mass
9. Fulton Fish Market
— Doug Simpson